This essay was published online, a few months after the super typhoon hit my country. I want to share this because of the recent tragedy that shook Nepal. My prayers go to all the people of Nepal.
Tacloban City and the HeArt of Creative Healing
“I am not what has happened to me. I am what I choose to become.” Carl Jung
“Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity.” –Hippocrates
I am extremely grateful and humbled to be part of a team where our minds and hearts resonate with each other, where nationalism has nothing to do with position but has so much to do with serving the country and her people. Nothing is more fulfilling than knowing that the soul is dancing its way to its higher purpose and it is not alone.
The devastation of one of the strongest typhoons ever recorded, Haiyan (Yolanda), is still very much apparent in Tacloban 7 months after it hit the country. From the airport that is lacking walls to the tent city that is dirtied and muddied by random pouring of rain to downtown where even big houses and malls are still on its way to completion. The sight seems to have this invisible hand that clenches the heart and pokes the eyes to tears. How could one pass the sight without being touched? Only faith, humour and creativity could make one live each day. We are convinced that art is the soul’s expression and one of the safest ways to heal invisible wounds. As Georges Bragues put it, “art is a wound that turned into light.” We want to help them turn their wound into light, whenever they are ready. After all, healing is also a matter of choice, as people always say.
From two Executive Directors, Jenny Lind Elmaco of SPARK Philippines and Eileen Aparis of Apl.de.Ap Foundation to my colleagues Hans Kevin Madanguit, Michael Sison, and Anwedda Navarra to our local coordinators at Leyte Normal University and Operation Compassion, we have a common understanding that whatever we are going to do is just the beginning, and that the best way to address the invisible wound, trauma, brought by the typhoon is to name it, recognize it, and give it a safe space to heal.
We call our project, Connecting Communities through the Creative Arts. Connecting Communities through the Creative Arts, a brainchild of Spark Philippines, is an approach for Trauma Healing and Communitiy Reconciliation through the use of the creative arts, theater and music as methodologies to provide psychosocial support, social inclusion, conflict transformation and resiliency especially in areas affected by disasters and conflict. Art is a universal language that transcends language barriers and cultural differences. Using the creative arts as a way of communicating allows the work to become a springboard to begin conversations using images; to express feelings and thoughts, ideas and goals. It becomes a non-invasive and supportive way to work through issues and concerns.
The Connecting Communities through the Creative Arts – Training for Educators and Development Workers was a skills enhancement project that hopes to increase the knowledge and skills of educators/development workers in community reconciliation and psychosocial healing through the creative arts. The competence-building initiative aims to equip educators/development workers and support children and youth in recovering from trauma from disasters and other forms of violence.
We arrived on the 16th in Tacloban, a day before our programme started, to iron out anything that needed our attention. Our team, although exhausted from the weeks of preparation, was nonetheless relaxed. We had faith in each other’s strength. We banked on our ability to do things independently. We had to make sure that our attitude should always be positive, no matter what. No. Matter. What.
On the 17th, we began our 3-day facilitators’ training on trauma healing through the creative arts. It started by contextualizing trauma and the use of creative arts as a holistic approach to healing; this was headed by Professor and licensed psychologist, Mr. Rogen Alcantara. It was then followed by creative art workshops like puppetry, mandala, dream catcher, and theatre of the living led by our very own team members. Our training ended on the 19th, where teachers and Baranggay Health Workers (BHW) learned how to use their breath to enliven the soul and synchornise with the Whole under the supervision of performance artist, Mr. Razcel Salvarita, and to create music using plastic bottles under the direction of percussion artist, Mr. Jean Paul Zialcita. At the end of the last day, participants orchestrated their own performance with each group representing their own story and music.
The culminating activity was with the children of New Kawayan on the 20th. We brought the facilitators, the teachers and BHW, to apply what they had learned, to be the guiding light to the children and their communities. We sang and played with children. They enjoyed their food and the simple gifts of bags and school supplies they received. Their smiles were pure and innocent. Happiness and hope echoed in the community. Laughter was our prayer. Perhaps, God was laughing with us, too.
Because we did not come from that place, we will always be outsiders and we can never know the depths of their pain. We can only resonate with that common human pain of loss and death. We are all constantly healing.
On behalf of the team, I would like to say, big thank you to Tacloban for opening your doors to us most especially to our participants from different schools and baranggays, and the children of New Kawayan. Gratitude also goes to our funder, Apl. de. Ap. Typhoon Yolanda Relief at Give2Asia; and co-sponsors Mr. John Balignasay of Japan’s Brandear, and Asec. Cusio and Mr. Victor Ferrer of Operation Compassion. In rebuilding the nation, nothing works best than hearts, hands and minds working together.
Kate Alyzon Ramil is the Project Coordinator for Connecting Communities through the Creative Arts. She works as a Project Officer of SPARK Philippines. She holds a Master’s Degree in Women’s and Gender Studies (GEMMA) at the University of Hull in the UK and at Universidad de Granada in Spain. She is also the current Country Representative of Erasmus Mundus Association.